GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, R-FLA.: I'm running as a Republican. I'm very proud to be from the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and others that really have stood up for the principles of our party, like Ronald Reagan.
I could have chosen to stay in the primary, but frankly for me, it's your decision. It's not one club's decision or another.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Well, what a difference a month makes. Florida Governor Charlie Crist in a debate on this program in late March declared five times he would run for the Senate as a Republican and not as an independent. A commitment he took back this week.
Joining us now from Miami is the Republican candidate in the race, Marco Rubio.
Mr. Rubio, first of all, what does Charlie Crist's change tell you about him as a person and a politician?
REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL CANDIDATE MARCO RUBIO: Well, I'm not going to comment on the part about a person. This is really not about personalities or anything of that nature. But it does -- look, the critical issue here is accountability. And one of the things that's missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. And I think with Charlie Crist, we don't know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him. And I think we have learned that lesson here in Florida over the last few years. That's why his decision is not surprising to anybody who has worked with him here in Florida, and that's why this decision this week shouldn't be surprising to this audience either.
WALLACE: The dynamics of this race now change dramatically because it's become a three-person race. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll - - and we're going to put it up on screen -- running against Crist and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek, you get 64 percent of the Republican vote, but only 5 percent from Democrats and 29 percent from independents. So, question -- how do you reach out to the two-thirds of Florida voters who are not registered Republicans?
RUBIO: Well, I have been here before. I remind everyone that a year ago when I got into the Republican primary, I was down by 30 some-odd points, and we spent a year travelling the state, telling people what we believed in, and those numbers changed. And the same is going to happen now. And now we are going to have a chance to talk to a broader audience of Floridians about our mainstream positions, not the positions that these other candidates have, which quite frankly put our country on a path that most Floridians don't want us on. And I'm pretty confident that at the end of that process six months from now, those numbers will be dramatically different, because I believe we're the only candidate in this race that is going to go to Washington, stand up to this Washington, D.C. agenda that is taking our country in the wrong direction, and offer a very clear alternative.
WALLACE: But wait a minute, you said mainstream positions. I thought you were a conservative?
RUBIO: Conservative thought is the mainstream position in America. What is not mainstream in America is the belief that we should spend money that we don't have. What's not mainstream in America is the belief that we should take this crazy complicated tax code and make it crazier and more complicated. What is not mainstream in America is this belief that somehow if America weakens its position in the world, the world will become a safer place. These are the positions that quite frankly the policies coming out of Washington would create. That's well outside the mainstream of American political thought. So I believe that what political pundits describe as conservatism and I embrace as conservatism is mainstream thought in America.
WALLACE: Mr. Rubio, it's been suggested, though, that on some positions, you're moving a little bit from the right into the center. And let me give you one example. You have been quite critical since Arizona passed its new immigration law. Let's take a look at what you said this week. "That's not really something that Americans are comfortable with, the notion of a police state." Is that how you read the Arizona immigration law?
RUBIO: Well, it's important to point out that since that statement was made, Arizona has made subsequent changes to its law, which improved the law.
But my point is that the law in Arizona is not the ideal way to deal with a very serious public safety and immigration situation that that state is confronting. And my point was that these kinds of laws like what is happening in Arizona, although you understand why folks in Arizona are doing it, because they're scared and they're tired of a very serious public safety crisis. From a national perspective, it's not the ideal way to deal with this.
The best way to deal with this is for the federal government to do its job and secure its border with Mexico. Not just because of immigration but because of public safety. You have an all-out drug war happening in Mexico and it is spilling over into American cities, and the federal government has failed to secure that border adequately.
WALLACE: You are also a big supporter of offshore drilling, but after the Gulf spill in the last 10 days, you said this -- "We should be very concerned with what led to this disaster. And until that question is answered, I don't think we can move forward on anything else."
RUBIO: Well, again, what I'm pointing out is -- first of all, let's point out three things about what has happened in the Gulf. Number one is our number one priority needs to be to control that situation. This is shaping up to be an ecological disaster, but also an economic one. There are a bunch of people in the Gulf coast of Florida, Louisiana, and other Gulf states who make their living off the fishing industries, the shipping industry, the shrimping industry, whose livelihoods could potentially be wiped out. And that's why first order of business has got to be to get this under control as soon as possible.
The second order of business is to figure out why this happened. Was it human error? Was it a technological breakdown? Was it something this company, British Petroleum, is doing that other companies do not do? Ultimately, America still has an energy independence problem and an energy independence goal and an energy dependence problem. And it has to have all of its energy resources at its disposal. But obviously, safety is always the first caveat to any measure that we take, whether it's in energy, transportation or any initiative that America pursues. But energy independence is still a very important goal for America. And I believe having all of our energy resources at our disposal is at the forefront of that.
WALLACE: But just to quickly follow up, you're saying that until we know exactly what caused this, all plans for more drilling offshore should be put on hold?
RUBIO: Well, quite frankly, I don't think there is any imminent plans to drill offshore anyway. And so that is a moot point. The important point is what do you do with these existing rigs that are out there now? I don't think anyone, and rightfully so, is suggesting that we shut them down. But are they using the same technology? Is it likely that this could happen somewhere else, or is this an isolated incident due to human error or technological malfunction or technological inadequacy? Order number one is to get this under control. And step number two is to figure out why this happened so that it will never, ever happen again.
WALLACE: Mr. Rubio, it's been reported that the IRS is investigating your tax records to see if you misused a Republican Party credit card for your own personal expenses. Is that true?
RUBIO: Well, I don't know, I am not aware of any investigation. Quite frankly, the only one who has ever talked about it is an anonymous source to a newspaper. But anyone that looks at it, here is what they're going to find. I had an American Express charge card that we used for political purposes. I would review that bill every month, and if I ever saw anything on there that was personal, I would pay it back the next month directly to American Express out of my pocket. And that's what -- it's not going to take anyone very long to figure that out.
In hindsight, I wish we would have been a lot more careful. We learned valuable lessons about it. There's no doubt that I wish we would have been more cautious. But at the end of the day, every personal expense was paid for out of my pocket.
WALLACE: I just want to quickly follow up. Quick questions, quick answers. Have you or your office had any contact with the IRS or any federal authorities?
RUBIO: No. No, absolutely not.
WALLACE: Have you -- have you paid the party back for all charges that you admit that you billed to them improperly?
RUBIO: Well, there was only one that was talked about, and it was an error. The chairman of the party called it inadvertent. And that is proper legal state travel that also was paid for on the party credit card. And we have reimbursed that weeks ago.
WALLACE: And why not release your income tax returns as well as your credit card statements to clear up any questions about this?
RUBIO: Well, the credit card statements are now public. They were actually leaked to the media, so they are out there. And we will be releasing our income tax statements here in the next couple of weeks.
WALLACE: For how long a time, sir?
RUBIO: Well, we are talking to our accountants about that, but we're going to comply with whatever the standard is and whatever is necessary for full disclosure. Here is what I'm comfortable saying, Chris. People are going to know more about my finances than any other candidate in this race here in the next couple of weeks.
WALLACE: Finally, and we have got about a minute left, during the debate here a month ago, you surprised a lot of people when you said that changing the retirement age and also changing the cost-of- living adjustments for Social Security -- and you were talking only about people who are now under the age of 55 -- should be on the table. After that, Governor Crist called that idea cruel and unfair to seniors living on fixed income.
Mr. Rubio, do you stand by that? Will you consider benefit cuts to Social Security for people who are now under age 55?
RUBIO: I think the systems have to change. I don't think any serious observer of the process believes that we can get away with not doing that.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, these are programs that will bankrupt themselves and bankrupt our country. And the people of my generation, folks under 55 years of age, I think are starting to grow in their understanding that unless we reform these changes with serious proposals to reform them, not the status quo, they will bankrupt our country. These have to be dealt with. I stand by it squarely. I think almost any serious observer of what is happening in this country and the growing debt in our nation believes that as well.
WALLACE: Mr. Rubio, we want to thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today, and we'll be watching this race right into November.
RUBIO: Thank you.